Chapter 6


British Aid and the Environment


The dramatic increase in public awareness of the "green" issues in Britain over the past few years has, as we have already seen, created a constraint on the ability of the Conservative government to justify the effects of its aid policy on the environment. A popularisation of the concept of "sustainable development", which resulted from the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, has led to a sharp shift into "green" rhetoric, at least, on the part of the Conservative government.[218]

In this chapter an examination will be made of the record of British aid in relation to the environment and the extent to which the adoption of "green" rhetoric by the ODA has been borne out in practice. In addition, an examination will be made of the ideas of the green movement itself in relation to the political and socio-economic causes of environmental destruction which it has so eloquently described.

The concept of sustainable development was defined in the Brundtland report in the following terms:

"If large parts of the developing world are to avoid economic, social and environmental catastrophes, it is essential that global economic growth be revitalised... this means more rapid economic growth in both industrial and developing countries, freer market access to the products of developing countries, lower interest rates, greater technological transfer and significantly larger capital flows, both concessional and commercial.

"The commission's overall assessment is that the international economy must speed up world growth while respecting the environmental constraints... But for them to emerge from dependence a general acceleration of global economic growth is not enough. This would mean a mere perpetuation of existing economic patterns... a continuation of economic growth and diversification, along with the development of technological and managerial skills, will help the developing countries mitigate the strains on the rural environment, raise productivity and consumption standards, and allow nations to move beyond dependence on one or two primary products for their export earnings... Future patterns of agricultural and forestry development, energy use, industrialisation, and human settlements can be made far less material-intensive and hence both more economically and environmentally efficient".[219]

The publication of the Brundtland Report resulted in a speedy formal government response in Britain. The Department of the Environment produced Our Common Future: a Perspective by the UK on the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, and in September 1989 a report on the steps which government departments were taking to implement some of the Brundtland recommendations, Sustaining Our Common Future: A Progress Report by the UK on Implementing Sustainable Development. Both of these publications, unsurprisingly, warmly endorsed the findings of the report since the commitment to continued growth and the more efficient use of resources was existing UK policy.

The initial government response, in the first of the above publications, to the concept of sustainable development and the compatibility of economic growth and the protection of the environment was presented in the following terms:

"At the heart of the World Commission's report Our Common Future lies the concept of sustainable development or 'development without destruction'. It is not a totally new concept. For centuries it has been the approach adopted by rural societies in working the land and its soils, the forests and the woodlands, and the fresh and sea waters under their stewardship... Successfully applying this tried and tested concept to meet modern conditions will represent a major breakthrough in managing and reconciling two vital elements that only a decade ago were regarded as being fundamentally incompatible: economic growth and the conservation of natural resources. The Report demonstrates that with wise management not only can the two be made compatible, but that they are essential to each other."[220]

Support for the compatibility of growth and environmental protection came in August 1989, when a British Government-commissioned report by Professor David Pearce endorsed it and produced some proposals to put the concept of sustainable development into operational practice. The report did suggest, however, that sustainable development ought to displace the focus away from economic growth as it has been hitherto perceived towards development and towards the quality of life rather than income by itself. In order to correctly decide how a "trade off" can be made between economic growth and environmental quality, an economic value must be assigned to environmental considerations. Thus the future loss of certain resources must be estimated in order to evaluate policy options. Prices in general would have to incorporate the value of the environmental impact of the depletion of resources.[221]

This would appear to be a response to the criticisms of environmentalists who have argued for some time that while market economics can price the inputs to manufacturing it has been unwilling to price the value of environmental degradation

The Brundtland report led to a good deal of controversy in environmentalist circles where the concept of growth plus diversification away from monoculture and greater efficiency in the use of resources through improved technology has been challenged on the grounds that it is too little too late, and a nil-growth policy has been advocated which would limit consumption of resources to the ecological 'interest' without cutting into the ecological 'capital'. Rees argues that the view that growth can be sustained indefinitely stems ultimately from the Cartesian, mechanical world view which classical economics borrowed from Newtonian physics and which still shapes the thinking of present day neo-classical economists. According to this view, it is argued, thought is shaped by a "subject-object dualism" which sees the environment (object) as secondary to the human race (subject), economic processes are seen as self-sustaining circular flows between production and consumption within a closed system. The economy adjusts itself in response to changes in events if left alone to do so. Against this, some environmentalists would argue that there is no separation in reality between the human economy and the environment: they are all part of the same system or biosphere. There is no closed economic system because the economy relies upon natural resources. Unlimited growth is in danger of destabilising the ecological life support system, which provides these resources, through over-harvesting and the subordination of eco-systems to its exigencies. Viewed from this wider scientific point of view and utilising the thermodynamic concept of "entropy" (ie disorder in the sense of the dissipation of energy and matter) it is argued that, whereas eco-systems do not increase the net amount of disorder, economic systems do. Eco-systems utilise solar energy from the Sun through natural production processes (photosynthesis) and this does not involve the use of non-renewable resources, as do economic production processes. Eco-systems recycle their waste via food chains and other biological mechanisms. Evolution and succession increase net order. Economic systems, it is pointed out, degrade their non-renewable resources and thus increase net entropy through the dissipation of available energy and matter. This is true of both the products of economic production as well as the by-products, because all becomes waste sooner or later. Thus even production in the economic sense is in reality consumption in the thermodynamic sense. Eco-systems are only limited by the availability of nutrients, appropriate exposure to solar energy and photosynthetic efficiency. But whereas eco-systems are maintained in a steady state by negative feedback, economic production is characterised by positive feedback, which means that its growth is characterised by uncontrolled growth. This growth threatens to undermine the conditions which allow for the self-sustaining development of eco-systems. Economic productive is not self-regulating in the sense that the market does not provide signals to society which automatically cause it to regulate its abuse of the ecological life-support system which underpins it.[222]

The conclusion for sustainable development is that the ecological limits to growth dictate that sustainable development can only be development which minimises the use of resources and the net increase in global entropy. As one environmentalist comments:

"Most discussion of sustainable development in the socio-political mainstream emphasises the need to sustain economic growth and assumes that we can 'account for' the environment through greater efficiency of resource use, improved technology, better pollution control and wider use of environmental assessment. Such incrementalism may constitute a necessary first step but by itself would result in little more than a somewhat better dressed version of the growth-bound status quo requiring a minimum of adjustment by either industry or individuals. The evidence suggests, however, that we may be fast approaching absolute limits to material economic growth. We no longer have the luxury of 'trading-off' ecological damage for economic benefits if we hope to have a sustainable future. The maintenance of global ecological integrity necessarily becomes our highest priority and must be taken account of in every local and regional development decision."[223]

This approach has a certain superficially persuasive elegance about it and certainly there is a lot of truth in its criticisms of the neo-classical economists' arguments. The analysis is convincing, but the conclusion that growth must be curtailed would seem to be misconceived. Under capitalism, all sorts of socially unnecessary production occurs simply because a profit can be made from it. Thus in the field of transport the motor car is a classic example of a product which is wasteful of fossil fuel and which is ruining the environment. It could be replaced by a first class cheap and efficient public transport system if society put its mind to it. However, entrenched vested interests in the form of the oil and motor firms would resist such a course and their power is considerable. If one thinks of the amount of paper consumed by the advertising and packaging of products sold on the basis of false need, or the materials unnecessarily used up on luxury goods linked to the skewed values of consumerism, it can be seen that resources are being unnecessarily consumed. It is the blind, uncontrolled and limitless accumulation created by the market for profit that is problematical. The growth of socially useful production for need severed from the unnecessarily wasteful and extravagant squandering of resources for profit would be growth limited only to need, not accumulation for its own sake.

One question on which the environmentalists, the Brundtland Commission and the Thatcher Government would appear to be united on, however, is that of the crucial importance of population growth as a factor in causing environmental destruction. The most well known writer to assess population growth in relation to the earth's inability to feed people is perhaps Paul Erlich, who wrote The Population Bomb in 1968. A number of other writers argue that, while population pressure is a factor in explaining the pressure on resources, there is no demonstrable correlation between population density and, for example, hunger or environmental destruction. Whilst environmentalists may be very good at descriptions of what is happening in terms of the effects of economic activity on the environment, they have been less clear, it is argued, on the relative importance of the factors which cause these effects. A number of examples have been cited of countries where population density is relatively high compared to another country but where hunger or environmental destruction is less severe. As Francis Moore Lappe argues:

"China, for instance, has only half as much cropped land per person as India, yet Indians suffer widespread and severe hunger while the Chinese do not. Sri Lanka has only half the farmland per person of Bangladesh, yet when effective government policies kept food affordable, Sri Lankans were considerably better fed than Bangladeshis. Costa Rica, with less than half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy one indicator of nutrition  fourteen years longer than that of Honduras, and close to that of industrialised countries... and Cuba, which leads the third world in terms of life expectancy, low infant mortality rates and good nutrition, has a population density similar to Mexico's, where hunger is rampant."[224]

Clearly, other, more important, factors are at work than population density in explaining hunger. The same is true of environmental destruction. Brazil springs to mind as an example of a country which is not short of land in relation to its population. The land tenure system which means that a small minority of landowners monopolise vast areas of the countryside forces the landless of the north east to migrate to the Amazon. Amazonian colonisation and the conversion of unsuitable forest land for agricultural purposes is used as an alternative to a more equitable distribution of suitable agricultural land in other parts of Brazil. Land reform is forcibly resisted by landowners, and the last attempt to redistribute some land under Goulart in the early sixties resulted in a military coup. In other parts of the world, there is undoubtedly less scope than in Latin America for redistribution of good land, such as Indonesia, where much rain forest is being cleared, land ownership is nevertheless highly unequal. The transmigration project in which landless people were being moved out of overcrowded Java to the less densely populated outer islands was an exercise in avoiding the thorny political issue of land reform in Java at the expense of the forests and lands which are beneath them (which are unsuitable for agricultural purposes) in the outer islands. As we shall see below, commercial logging, ranching and other large scale entrepreneurial activities are far more important in destroying the forests than migrants.

Overemphasis on population growth by some environmentalists would appear to be a result of a one sided appraisal of the relative importance of the socio-economic factors which are responsible for environmental destruction. In its analysis of the causes of the destruction of the forests and species in general, the Brundland Report makes no mention of unequal land tenure patterns and spends a good deal of time talking about population pressures. After talking in the previous two paragraphs about the major "threat" of population growth it continues as follows.

"Brazil, Columbia, Cote d'Ivoire, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand, and other nations with an unusual abundance of species already suffer a massive flow of farmers from traditional forest homelands into virgin territories. These areas often include tropical forest, perceived by the migrants encouraged to farm there as 'free' lands available for unimpeded settlement."[225]

In the absence of any mention whatsoever about the skewed land tenure context of the migration in north-east Brazil and the other countries mentioned, a grossly distorted impression is presented that this is solely the cause of environmental destruction. Indeed, in the whole report the only references to land tenure would appear to be occasional codified and understated remarks in passing which are not developed, or given the emphasis they merit, such as:

"In addition, threats to the sustainable use of resources come as much from inequalities in people's access to resources and from the ways in which they use them as from the sheer numbers of people".[226]


"Inequitable distribution of production assets, unemployment, and underemployment are at the heart of the problem of hunger in many countries."

Given this failure to adequately address the land question, the report is only able to describe but not address the causes of population growth itself.

"Poverty breeds high rates of population growth: families poor in income, employment and social security need children first to work and later to sustain elderly parents. Measures to provide an adequate livelihood for poor households, to establish and enforce minimum age child labour laws, and to provide publicly financed social security will all lower fertility rates."[227]

As Lappe and Schurman point out, population growth is linked to powerlessness at the political, economic and social levels of the poor to achieve security. In rural society power is linked to land ownership, and since the report fails to confront this issue it is unable to do anything other than acknowledge that the problem exists. It offers no way forward other than birth control which, in a context of powerlessness, can lead to the coercive curtailment of self-determination on the part of women. The low status of women within the family is another expression of powerlessness to avoid expectations on the part of men that they should have lots of children. The absence of social security provision also leads poor people to seek security in large numbers of children as a workers when young and as a source of old age insurance.

Similarly, economic power at the international level in the form of the debt problem has led to an even greater shift of resources away from the poor which has not helped population growth. As Lappe and Schurman point out:

"... between 1982 and 1987, the net transfer from poor countries to banks and governments in the rich countries totalled $140 billion, or the equivalent of two Marshall Plans. How did third world countries come up with such sums? Health and welfare budgets got slashed first. And to earn foreign exchange land and credit increasingly went to export crops... But reduced health care budgets means that more babies die and fewer resources are available for comprehensive family planning care. More resources devoted to crops for export means that locally, food becomes more scarce and expensive. Add to this cuts in government food subsidies... Thus, the "international debt crisis" seemingly remote from intimate reproductive behaviour  ends up affecting conditions of basic family security, health, and nutrition known to influence fertility.[228]

Population growth can be used as a means of presenting environmental destruction as being caused by "natural" causes rather than seeing the causes of both population growth and environmental destruction as being caused by socio-economic inequalities and powerlessness. Famines and floods caused by commercial over-exploitation of land and the commercial felling of forest cover of watersheds are frequently presented in a similar fashion as "natural" disasters.

Another report, Tropical Forests: a Call to Action, Report of the International Task Force Convened by the World Resources Institute, and the United Nations Development Programme, published in 1985 by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and associated with the FAO's Tropical Forests Action Plan (TFAP) has also been influential in shaping British aid policy.

This report has also received sharp criticism from Indian environmentalist, Shiva, who argued that the report contained the classic myths of British colonial forestry policy which were used to carry out extensive deforestation historically:

"There are four pervasive myths behind current international forestry programmes which militate against their becoming strategies for the ecological and economic recovery of marginalised communities. The four myths are: (a) That people, not profits, are the primary cause of tropical deforestation; (b) That the 'developed' world has protected its forests and must teach conservation to the Third World; (c) That commercial forestry, based on private ownership, can solve the fuelwood crisis for the poor; and (d) That commercial afforestation can guarantee ecological recovery."[229]

Shiva was particularly critical of the report for identifying the cause of deforestation as being the rural poor rather than commercial interests. She maintains that the tribal peoples who inhabit the forests have been an example of humans living in complete harmony with the forest environment living off the ecological "interest" only and resisting destruction by outside commercial interests. She cites the following section of the report as being an example of this view:

"It is the rural poor themselves who are the primary agents of the destruction as they clear forests for agricultural land, fuelwood and other necessities. Lacking other means to meet their daily survival needs, rural people are forced to steadily erode the capacity of the natural environment to support them."[230]

Even in other parts of the Third World such as Amazonia where migrants from the poverty-stricken Brazilian north east have been driven to clear the forest (and on occasions in conflict with tribals) it has been estimated that 60 per cent of the forest destruction has been the responsibility of a small number of large commercial ranchers who have been heavily subsidised by the Brazilian government.[231]

However, in defence of the report, as Hayter has noted, the above view does ignore certain statements which appear to register Shiva's concerns and which present a more balanced assessment of these and other factors which lead to deforestation. The following statement from the WRI report would appear to contradict the earlier quotation from the same report cited above in terms of who is primarily responsible for deforestation.

"Deforestation is a complex problem. The spread of agriculture, including crop and livestock production, is the single greatest factor in forest destruction. The rural poor are often unjustly held responsible. They are often the instruments of forest destruction, caught in a chain of events that forces them into destructive patterns of land use to meet their basic needs for food and fuel. The real causes of deforestation are poverty, skewed land distribution (due to historical patterns of land settlement and commercial agricultural development), and low agricultural productivity."[232]

As Hayter comments, the problem is not that the above quotation is wrong, but that it will not affect the real policies which the aid agencies are likely to pursue.

Sustainable development in relation to British policy was outlined in an ODA publication, Sustaining Our Common Future: a Progress Report by the United Kingdom on Implementing Sustainable Development. Sustainable development is summarised as follows:

"To persuade others of the compatibility of economic development and environmental protection. To examine the scope for an effective combination of market mechanisms and regulation, nationally and internationally. To encourage other countries to adopt economic measures designed to address global environmental problems. To support work to clarify the links between environmental degradation and population growth. To ensure that programmes to assist developing countries are environmentally sound and help them to tackle local, regional and global environmental issues. To encourage other donor countries to address the environmental needs of developing countries."[233]

Given that the policy of the Thatcher government is to limit government constraints on the market, it is difficult to see how the first two points can make any realistic sense. The points made above on growth by environmentalists, misconceptions notwithstanding, challenge the compatibility of unlimited growth with market economics. The preoccupation with population and the absence of any mention of unequal land ownership reflect the shortcomings of the Brundtland report in these areas.

An ODA publication, The Environment and the British Aid Programme, does, however, cite, but once again in passing and without any development, the causes of environmental destruction as including land tenure arrangements, policies that encourage unsustainable resource use, population growth, deforestation, the absence of environmental controls, industrialisation and inefficient energy use. It also proposes that the mechanism for implementing measures to safeguard the environment should be the structural adjustment programmes.

Such programmes are designed to promote export-led economic growth, which as we have seen is not a solution to environmental problems.

"The structural adjustment policies of developing countries supported by multilateral and bilateral donors can have important environmental consequences. In many instances, policies designed to make prices less distorted will have beneficial environmental effects. An obvious example is the removal of subsidies on the use of fossil fuels, which tend to encourage the more efficient use of energy. Structural adjustment also provides a framework for rationalising the balance of public expenditure programmes and taxation. Thus a greater emphasis on afforestation or water management in public expenditure plans could be environmentally beneficial. Removal of fiscal arrangements that encourage forest clearance may increase net revenues, whilst also contributing to environmental goals."[234]

Behind these stated goals lies, it has to be said, the reality that all cuts in subsidies are advocated not because of any concern for the environment, but in order to clear the decks for the promotion of export led growth to pay off the foreign debt. Thus, it is not suggested that savings from cuts in subsidies on fossil fuels or forest clearance should be used on environmentally beneficial projects, only that there should be a change of emphasis in this direction within the reduced public expenditure budget. The concern for reducing the use of fossil fuels is, in any case, contradicted by the advocacy of growth which, as we have seen, would increase its use.

In the second chapter of The Environment and the British Aid Programme, which deals specifically with aid and the environment, the same problem occurs (pp14-159), of overemphasis on population growth which is dealt with first and foremost and at length, and which is presented as a major "natural" cause of environmental destruction. We then have later on, buried away in a paragraph on forestry on page 15, as an after-thought, an acknowledgment that other factors are relevant, such as:

"inequitable land tenure and fiscal and other policies which provide economic incentives to remove forest cover. Commercial logging contributes to deforestation by providing financial incentives for tree felling and by creating access roads which encourage the invasion of forests by cultivators. The international tropical hardwood trade is a further element. Forest products are an important source of export earnings and employment for some developing countries, but it is important that forests are managed in a sustainable way."[235]

Such a presentation in terms of the order, relative space given, as well as emphasis, creates a grossly distorted view of the reality behind environmental destruction. First the impression is created that really this is all an unfortunate natural disaster and then the really important socio-economic commercial causes are mentioned in passing as though they were secondary issues. Even within the constricted space granted to these "other" issues, the facts are glossed over. As Hayter points out in the case of Ghana, which has suffered particularly badly from deforestation:

"The ODA's effect on Ghanaian forests has been ambivalent. On the one hand, it has a long term forestry inventory project in the process of being expanded, on the other it was involved (with the World Bank and the IMF) in pushing the Ghanaians to increase the export of timber, and in providing them with the means of doing so. The money spent on the latter has exceeded the money spent on the former by nearly nine to one."[236]

The record of British afforestation aid projects has been strongly criticised by ecologists for using fast-growing exotic trees such as eucalyptus which are in effect cash crops, with little use in terms of fuelwood or fodder for local use by poor peasants and which are useful only as sources of commercial wood pulp for the paper and wood-chip industry. This species is also unsuitable for inter-cropping with other staples which local people have traditionally planted in forests. The commitment on the part of the ODA to "social forestry" designed to meet the needs of local communities dependent on the forests for its products has, it is alleged, taken the form of cash cropping along traditional commercial lines. Thus in the November 1989 edition of The Spur, the newspaper of the World Development Movement, an aid pressure group supported by the NGOs and the churches, the following is reported:

"The ODA has come under fire in recent years for putting the demands of industry before the needs of the poor. Voluntary agencies have reserved their fiercest criticisms for a forestry project launched in the southern state of Karnataka... The urgent need to plant trees in India is undisputed. The country has lost 60 per cent of its forest cover in the past forty years. But instead of encouraging 'social forestry' involving poor rural communities in growing a variety of trees to provide firewood, fruit and animal feed and some raw materials for industry the ODA has concentrated in Karnataka on cash crops of a single species eucalyptus. Eucalyptus suits the paper and rayon industry because it grows fast and provides good timber for pulping. But the leaves of the eucalyptus tree cannot be fed to livestock, and its wood is useless for cooking because it does not burn well. Its roots soak up large amounts of water, which means that it can lower the water table in dry areas."[237]

The article went on to point out that such plantations are often grown on communal lands where villagers are used to grazing their livestock and collecting wood. Ditches and fences are erected to keep the people out once the eucalyptus has been planted.

By way of reply, the ODA had this to say in a forestry supplement of its newspaper, British Overseas Development:

"Although eucalypts have been grown in this part of India for 200 years, and are favoured by many farmers as well as foresters for their fast growth and drought hardiness, they have been accused of depleting soil moisture and nutrient supplies. The ODA is assisting the State Government with a new research programme to determine the comparative effects of such fast growing trees on soil, water and nutrient supplies, and on neighbouring farm crops... Early results... indicate that eucalypts exert close control over water loss when it is in short supply. This means that in dry periods when the water table in the soil is low their water demand is unlikely to exceed that of the local tree species."[238]

The World Bank (which co-sponsors the Karnataka project), however, conceded in letter to the International Institute for Environment and Development that, "we do make a conscious decision to avoid block planting of eucalyptus in arid or semi-arid situations where indisputably the species does have a negative impact on total water yield."[239]

Despite the stated aims of social forestry, the Indian Commission of Agriculture has openly stated that industrial sources of wood pulp should be met from social forestry in order to meet export targets.[240]

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General noted that within the Karnataka project agricultural land had been converted to commercial forestry:

"It was also intended that the land used for forestry would be of minimal agricultural potential. However, a 1986 Indian Audit report on the project as a whole, quoting a study conducted by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics, noted that in ten selected villages, in two districts, there had been large-scale diversion from agricultural land to commercial forestry."[241]

The project involved the free distribution of eucalyptus seedlings by the Indian Forest Department. Larger farmers would appear to have benefited disproportionately compared to small farmers because they were best able to pick up seedlings, information and credit and were better able to wait seven years for the trees to grow. [242]

An ODA Evaluation report concedes that:

"In the first year of the project, ODA was in effect subsidising landlords in the planting of large areas of land, some of which had been used for millet. This activity does not fulfil the objectives of social forestry, which should involve everyone, and should particularly benefit the poor. But during the life of the project the proportion of small farmers taking up eucalyptus planting as an integral part of their farming system and as a valuable means of generating cash increased greatly."[243]

It is now generally accepted that it was naive to assume that there was a need for fuelwood on the part of farmers they got it from crop residues and snippings from their farms. The rich farmers simply got hold of the seedlings distributed by the project and sold the trees as a cash crop to the pulp mills or as poles. Small farmers didn't have sufficient land anyway to plant the trees. They, along with the landless, needed small numbers of a variety of fruit and backyard trees for their own use rather than large numbers of a single species such as eucalyptus. The project was very slow to recognise this, partly because it was not what traditional foresters were used to.[244]

Small farmers need a yearly income in order to survive. Eucalyptus hit the landless farm labourers hard because it is nowhere near as labour intensive as the traditional food crops production which it had displaced.[245]

This is questioned by some observers. Rural employment projects which pay quite high year-round wages are said to have attracted landless labourers away from small farmers. Rich farmers have been less affected as they can pay comparable rates of pay. Small farmers have been unable to compete and the labour market is said to have been undercut in this way. Tree planting, it is said, has been a response by these farmers to shortages of labour as it is less labour intensive. Tree planting is thus seen as the effect of labour shortages rather than a cause of rural unemployment.[246]

The Mosse and Kabbur independent NGO monitoring group which visited the project argued that "reduced labour costs is only one part of this and in all areas visited reported wage rates are still comparatively low". Hayter also points out that middle farmers always complain that wages are too high.[247]

Tree planting has been linked to a displacement of cheap food crops such as ragi, a variety of millet. Teresa Hayter, for example, cites a study by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics which discovered that 63.3 per cent of agricultural land traditionally used for growing ragi, pulses and oilseeds in Kolar district, the state's largest ragi-growing district, had been covered with eucalyptus single stand plantations, and also 49.6 per cent in the second largest ragi-producing district, Bangalore. Mosse and Kabbur also observed this phenomenon when they visited the project.[248],

Food displacement is disputed by some observers, although they concede that this may happen in some localised areas. A switch to irrigation by many farmers in the recent period is said to have compensated for any such displacement.[249]

But as Hayter again points out:

"... it seems probable that a reduction in the supply of the lower grade, non-irrigated millet has raised its prices, causing problems for the poor in particular, although the evidence is disputed."[250]

This view is also shared by Mosse and Kabbur:

"Reduced availability and increased price of coarse (and normally cheaper) food grains would affect the poorest section of the population most."[251]

That is to say that the displacement of cheaper staple food grains, normally grown on rainfed marginal land, by eucalyptus does not help the poorest.

The ODA evaluation report mentioned above says:

"... tree growing has been becoming a profitable and less risk-prone use of some of the areas which have become marginal for ragi production. The shift to trees seems to be mainly on such sites; little of it is occurring on higher productivity or irrigated lands. (...) Efforts to curb the growing of eucalyptus, or other tree crops, are therefore unlikely to increase output of ragi. For that to happen, costs and returns associated with its production would have to alter to the point at which it again became profitable."[252]

Similarly, Shepherd argues that:

"Only those who are determined that the poor can only benefit from subsistence goods and not from cash would call the farm forestry programme a failure."

She also goes on to argue however in favour of an interventionist role for the government in fixing minimum prices for eucalyptus.[253]

The view expressed in the Arnold et al report, that only marginal land is being planted with eucalyptus, was not shared by the Mosse-Kabbur NGO Monitoring Mission Report:

"Farm forestry is not restricted to marginal and unproductive land. Even irrigated land growing cash crops such as sugarcane has been planted with commercial tree species by larger farmers."[254]

The view expressed in the Arnold et al report above (and also Mellor, see below) seems to miss the point made by Chambers, Ghildyall and Farrington et al (see below), who point to the need to give more and not less agricultural research attention to the food needs of rainfed areas. The idea that the profitability or otherwise of a given activity must be allowed to dictate priorities is challenged by this group of researchers. They doubt whether wealth generated through concentration of attention in well-endowed productive areas will "spill over" into poorer less well-endowed areas. They also question the ability of the well-endowed areas to absorb labour sufficiently to compensate for unemployment in the less well-endowed areas as a result of lack of agricultural research attention. They point to the work of Sen, who suggests that food shortages in poorer areas is not associated with lack of national food availability but with lack of food-growing and/or food-purchasing ability.[255]

We will see below in the case of another ODA project, the Indian Rainfed Farming Project, that the views of Chambers and Ghildyal and Farrington et al. have been adopted so as to offer a number of technological options resulting from agricultural research which enable farmers to improve marginal land for food crops. This positive attitude towards developing the food-growing potential of currently marginal land is in stark contrast to that of Arnold et al, who speak negatively and passively of the:

"declining profitability of cultivation of coarse grains such as ragi on marginal rainfed lands. (...) A reversal of the decline in ragi production will come about only if its profitability improves; it will not tbe achieved by hindering or discouraging the growing of eucalyptus."[256]

This attitude is reflected also in the lack of agricultural research in rainfed areas. The whole point of the "farmer first" approach is surely to put in the necessary agricultural research and extension necessary to make them less "marginal" for staple food-growing and not simply to condemn them to producing non-staple, non-food cash crops when the role of aid is first and foremost to help people meet their basic survival needs.

In some cases trees have been planted on poorer land which was left fallow. It is pointed out, however, that the land may have been used for grazing. It is customary in parts of India to allow anyone to graze animals in the dry season even on grazing land owned by the rich farmers. Tree planting has thus resulted in restriction of this right.[257]

As we have already seen, even outside of the farms, the commons are being fenced off to grow eucalyptus and control has shifted to the Forestry Department in the name of "social forestry". Village woodlots were the traditional foresters response to aid agency requests for a village level forestry programme. The plantation mentality resulted in the solution of a small plantation of homogeneous species. At the insistence of the Indian Government, common land under trees was signed over to the Forest Department for the duration of the forestry project. In the meantime, in 1988 a law was passed saying that land under trees must not revert to other use as a way of restricting deforestation. The result was that the common land was lost as a grazing resource by the landless and village poor. The trees have generally not been used as fuelwood or fodder resource for the village poor as was intended. The village committees or Panchayets as they are known have instead sold the wood as a cash crop like the rich farmers. The cash has often been used to acquire a village resource such as a health centre or for electrification. A resource for the very poor has thus been converted into a bonus for the community as a whole with the rich benefiting as well as the poor.

Village woodlots are now seen as something of a disaster because there are technical and management problems with growing a mixture of trees preferred by the landless. Villagers find it difficult to cooperate for a period of ten years in terms of who has what share and in managing and protecting the woodlots. The incentives are insufficient to motivate people to put in the long-term work needed. it is difficult to stop people taking timber in the middle of the night. An alternative has been to give a few trees to every landless family to grow in their own domestic compound where there are no problems about who owns what. This seems to be an increasingly popular method of planting considerable numbers of trees and represents a final break with the methods of traditional forestry plantation methods.[258]

The ODA accept that mistakes were made and say they have attempted to learn lessons from their mistakes. Chief natural resources adviser Andrew Bennett had this to say.

"Can I say one thing just to start off with in defence development is not a blueprint activity, it's a process and you've got to try things and you've got to make mistakes. And in Karnataka there was an overemphasis on the planting of eucalypts. Now that has evolved and in any development process you've got to build in the sensitivities... The other thing there was a perception initially that social forestry and community forestry was more about producing firewood or selling a cash crop to a paper mill. And people didn't understand the other social demands which people were relying upon their forests to meet, like grazing, like other materials, like harvesting foods that grew and lived in these forests. And, you know, we're the first to admit that we don't always get it right the first time. What I do wish is that people would actually move with the times and actually see how that project and programme is evolving. And it has moved quite considerably, and in fact eucalypts are not being done to the same extent. And we have done an awful lot of work to look at the effect it is having pulling down the water table. And I think what I'd like you to go away with is the impression that we don't stick our head in the sand."[259]

In fact, the Karnataka Social Forestry Project did not evolve positively but ground to a halt and is no longer being funded. What he was referring to was the developments that have taken place within the ODA since then, partly as response to the bad press they got over the Social Forestry Project in Karnataka. There is no doubt that because of the urgency of the global warming question, forestry has been a key priority ensuring that the North maintains a viable sink in the South for its own Northern carbon emissions which are being allowed to continue unrestrained. The ODA has had to come up with some ideas for pursuing forestry projects more effectively.

As Mary Hubley who is based at the Overseas Development Institute and works for the ODA as consultant, points out:

"So that project [Karnataka Social Forestry Project] was a bit of a disaster in that sense, but they learned from it, which I suppose is a positive thing. And now the next project that's coming up in the Western Ghats will probably be slightly more sensitive and less dogmatic in its approach, and they are starting with training and they are looking at what sort of people they need at the interface between the village and the Forest Department. If it's NGOs, what type of NGO do you bring in? If it's field level foresters, what sort of skills do they need and how do you actually train them? If you're going to have villagers involved in management of forests what sort of joint management are you looking at, how do you actually do it? So they have learned but again it a question of getting the right sort of people in to do the appropriate training, to continue to catalyse change within the Forest Department, to continue to bring Forest Department, NGOs and local people together. If you don't get those key people in the projects can't work. You just get a complete collapse. Do you bring external expatriate people, do you bring external Indian people from outside Karnataka? What do you do?"[260]

Mary Hubley argues that there has been a concerted effort on the part of people working within the ODA: younger, more enlightened elements as well as outside consultants like herself and others at the ODI who have been working to change the approach of the ODA. She criticises the environmental lobby for carping on the outside and insists that it is necessary to provide successful models.

Mary Hubley's approach is very much that of a "reformist" in relation to the ODA  things can be changed within the institution, in her view:

"It's an interesting time to be working with the ODA because they are actually open to if you can come up with a sufficiently strong project framework that they think will work and you can actually insist on certain types of people being involved in the evolution of the project, and if you insist on this sort of process-type project where it is very flexible and there are no real targets set down, it's evaluated every year and the evaluation at the end of the year sets the scene for the next year, so that each year you have a huge learning process going on and the monitoring of the project is very much the sort of process monitoring where the people at the field level and the farmers themselves are actually monitoring what they do, then you get a much more successful type of focussed project. This is what the ODA is pushing for at the moment and people within ODA are quite happy to see it happen... So I think what the NGOs said was probably fair between the years 1984 and '88. But I think that since the years 1988/89 things have really changed within ODA, and a lot of it is because of these very positive experiences they've had in Nepal with this participatory forestry that's going on there because I suppose that's the only way to be successful in the future."[261]

The problems with the Karnataka Social Forestry Project led, as we have seen, to a new project in the same state: the Western Ghats project which is a forest management project rather than a a social forestry project. Attention has turned away from growing woodlots on the village commons to managing the existing reserve forests more sustainably. The method of implementing the project is different from the social forestry project. The latter was a "blueprint" approach in which the whole project was implemented all at once according to an initially conceived "blueprint" which was difficult to change once it was up and running. The Western Ghats project was conceived as a "process planning" project in which a start is made in a pilot area where a sort of trial is undertaken. Lessons learnt in the pilot area are then incorporated into the next phase of the project and progress is similarly analysed periodically in subsequent stages of the project cycle. The project was begun in 1988 and is still in a sort of gestation period at the time of writing.

Participation by local people and local Indian NGOs is explicitly built in to the project. One reason for the slow start is that the team which is planning the project has had a variety of views about the relationship between conservation and the rights of forest dwellers. As one observer who participated in some of the discussions points out:

"The teams who did the work out there had a diversity of views within their number about what was the right way of going about it. They had an ecologist who was a very pro-butterflies and anti-people ecologist, you know, a bit World Wildlife Fundy: lovely pandas horrible people kind of person. He was dreaming up actually very anti-people schemes for protecting the bio-diversity of this area. His wishes and the opposition of the other people to his wishes ground the thing to a complete and total halt they finally went off into a retreat, they literally upped sticks and went off to live together for a few days to discuss the issues. The relevant India desk officers from ODA went, the environment people went, the forestry people went and everyone just kind of hammered out the issues. they invited representatives from the NGOs on one of the days as well to get feed back from Oxfam and WWF."[262]

The project area is divided up into five zones. Zone 1 is the remote interior of the forest which is to be an ecological park under the sole control of the Forest Department. Zone 2 is an adjacent area set aside for commercial purpose linked to its sustainable management and regeneration. Zone 3 is devoted to commercial purposes as well as local needs. Zone 4 will be devoted to just local needs as will zone 5 outside the reserve forest. The latter three zones which are based on the fringes of the forest and outside the forest will be managed jointly by the local people and the Forest Department. Local NGOs will also be involved. The objective is to give the local people an incentive in protecting and regenerating the forest. Some idea of the priorities can be gained from the fact that 59 per cent of the project funds will be spent on the commercial ventures while only 29 per cent will be spent on "local needs" and 75 per cent of project funds will be swallowed up by Zones 1 and 2 (the ecological park and the commercial exploitation) alone.[263]

The background to this approach is that the Forest Department had historically developed from colonial times when the British took control of the forests as a source of revenue. Tribal people's access to the reserve forests was restricted: they could not cut down timber, but they were allowed customary rights to minor forests produce such as roots, fruits, cane etc. The Forests Department has always been seen as a kind of police by local peoples. The official view of the Forests Department likewise is that deforestation is caused primarily by people.

However, as Steve Percy, an independent researcher who has been sent several times out to visit Indian aid projects by the development lobby organisation World Development Movement, has pointed out:

"The Forests Department have subsidised forest-based industries to a huge extent. So big companies with a lot of power might get a ton of bamboo for R100 whereas in the market place people will have to pay R10,000. So they've subsidised industry and a lot of the resources have been squandered in such a way. The other thing is commercial logging, chopping down forests for development projects  that's had a much bigger impact on tree cover than anything else. But the Forest department blame the people. There obviously is a kind of pressure from people, from urban consumers, from people who live in the forest to some extent., but they are not the sole reason why there is such a rapid deforestation in India."[264]

The assumption that there are no tribals in the remote forest interior of Zone 1 of the Western Ghats project is challenged by Percy. He says that the Indian NGOs he spoke with claim that even in the remote interior there are tribal settlements to be found. The danger is that the these tribals will be moved out of the forest area in the interests of the conservation of the area. The Forest Department says that no one will be moved unless they wish to be moved. But as Percy comments:

"Resettlement is proving a huge problem in India it causes problems with the law, it causes a break in the lifestyle, it's a break in culture, it breaks up the community. The compensation measures don't really cover for what they lose. It's just a huge traumatic experience and most people are not even economically compensated for what they've lost. Resettlement is a fundamental issue with this project. The ODA have said that they are against resettlement, but haven't come out against voluntary resettlement."[265]

Participation by local people is limited to the edges of the forests. The zones allocated to commercial exploitation are Zone 2 which will be purely commercial and Zone 3 which will be partly commercial and partly meeting local needs. Percy is not opposed to commercial activity as long as it is linked to the regeneration and good management of the forest and the tribal people are not moved out.

Mary Hubley sheds some light on the issues here. She points out that villagers in the state of Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayas villagers are often only interested in managing forests near their villages. They are not interested in more remote forests. There you need external management to stop forests dying through neglect. The Forests Department is the only agency which can achieve this in her view. The absence, however, of any recognition of the existence of, let alone consultation with, tribals present in the remote interior in Zone 1 indicates the limitations of the participatory approach being adopted.

She felt that in the Western Ghats project it was a mistake to have a rigid formal zonation. She argues that it is necessary to have a flexible, informal zonation based around needs and what is possible working with local people. She too regards the Forest Department as part of the problem. They are very hierarchical, not used to taking initiatives, they are used to being told exactly what to do, they are not used to identifying or organising forest users so that they can manage the forests more effectively. The problem for the ODA is to get the right sort of field personnel who are capable of mediating between the Forest Department, the local people and local NGOs both of whom are hostile to the Forests Department. The wrong sort of personnel can ruin a project in her view.

Steve Percy puts the issues another way. The North wants a carbon sink in the South to absorb its carbon emissions. It preaches conservation of forests in the South while doing next to nothing to control its own carbon emissions so in this sense there is a self-interested motivation to its forests conservation projects such as in the case of the Western Ghats. This is demonstrated, as Percy points out by the fact that the 1990 White Paper on the environment which mentioned "the part that forestry can play in keeping the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere down is one of the reasons for Britain's contribution to conserve and regenerate the tropical rain forests." It is also demonstrated by the fact the project proposal actually quantifies the benefits the project will create in terms of CO2 absorption.

"The present state of knowledge in the environmental sciences does not permit a precise assessment of the effects of the forest on the environment, yet the effects particularly in terms of climate and hydrology are likely to be profound on both the global and local scale.

"In the other zones, where previously non-forested are afforested there will be a lock-up of carbon in the biomass as the forest grows.

"Assuming... over the first twenty years the annual quantity of CO2 absorbed by growing trees is 4125 kg per ha, which if valued at the Swedforest estimate of Rs700 per kg, gives Rs30,000 per ha planted."[266]

This self-interested policy has been dubbed "environmental colonialism" by Indian NGOs. The priority thus appears to be given to conservation; the welfare of the people who live in the forests would seem to be secondary to this: in fact, they are seen as the most important cause of deforestation. Andrew Bennett of the ODA, on the other hand, describes the evolution of the project in the following terms:

"The Western Ghats project started off as a forest conservation programme and has finished up with: how do we provide the alternative wherewithal for the individual people such that they no longer need to remove forest cover and they can sustain a reasonable level of population and a reasonable standard of living in those areas. And I think it is one of the ultimate development challenges because people have tended historically to remove forest and replace it with annual land-use practices. And it's certainly taxing everybody. In the old days you could put a fence around and say 'don't go inside'. That's not sustainable any more. In a democratic society you can't do it."[267]

The problem with this approach is that it over-emphasises the role of people in forest destruction and fails to mention the role of commercial destruction of forests subsidised by the Forests department to this day. It also ignores the fact that tribals who are the people at risk here have traditionally respected the forests upon which they are dependent.

The ODA, like the Indian Forests Department, regard people as a primary cause of deforestation:

"One of the prime causes of deforestation in most countries seems to have been population pressure, people needing the land to do something else with it other than to leave it in trees and the perception that they can more readily meet their day to day needs on an annual cropping cycle than by cropping things from the forests."[268]

The general emphasis in ODA publications, as we have already mentioned, is on population as the main cause.

The Western Ghats project began as simply a forest conservation project. People were seen as a problem in the way of conservation because they were regarded as the primary cause. It was only because there was, as Gillian Shepherd put it, "a diversity of views" within the project planning team that consideration was eventually given to the social implications of the project. Tribal peoples have, as the Ecologist magazine has always argued, historically been the greatest respecters of the forests upon which they live. They live off the ecological "interest" rather than the ecological "capital". It is clear that their interests can all too easily be overlooked if a project is focussing too much on conservation of forests issues at the expense of social issues, and there is a corresponding danger that they may be sacrificed on the Northern altar of preserving the forests as a sink for its unrestrained carbon emissions.

The ODA's shift to participation is welcomed by Percy. At the same time the self-interested motive behind this shift should also be stressed. The shift has resulted from the failure of the police role of the Forests Department. In order to preserve and increase their carbon sink, the Northern aid agencies have had to think again. Corruption within the Forest Department meant that their role was becoming decreasingly effective in stopping forest clearance. A policy of co-option of local people through participation has been adopted. However, as we have noted, the Forests Department is seen as the police and local people mistrust it. The Indian NGOs have very good relations with people at a local level. The aid agencies not only need the "right sort of people" to bring people together; they also need local NGOs to use their good offices with local people to effect joint management of projects with the Forests Department. Some NGOs are wary of being co-opted into this role, however. It would thus appear that the ODA is adopting a policy towards the Indian NGOs similar to that adopted to British NGOs.

"A lot of NGOs feel that they've got to work within a government framework so that they are facilitating these developments. Other NGOs say 'we don't want to be co-opted, we don't want to be part of this' so there are different approaches to it generally but generally speaking NGOs in Karnataka feel it's a good thing, but they are still cautious and they are still keeping an eye on it."[269]

The same issues faced by the British NGOs will inevitably crop up. The Indian NGOs are well placed to critically monitor the Forests Department and the ODA. Will dependence on ODA funding cause them to mute their criticisms of them when funding is under threat? It is also not clear how extensive will be the consultations or whether the joint management will be on the basis of equality for all participants, or whether the Forest Department, which is in overall charge of the project, will be the decisive voice.

Mary Hubley argues that a lot of investment has to be made in the Forest Department: training them how to relate to local people in a sensitive way which is different to their historical police role. The ODA say much the same. There are however neo-colonialist overtones to this approach in the sense of a foreign government aid agency training the personnel of a former colonial nation's local government staff. It is also highly questionable whether an institution like the Forestry Department, which subsidises the commercial destruction of the forests, could ever be anything else than the revenue-raising, asset-policing agency it has always been. Such a view also fails to see that the attempt to co-opt local people and NGOs is part of a self-interested policy initiated by the North.

In the same state of Karnataka there is another project in which the ODA is paying 70 per cent of the costs, the Mysore Paper Mill project. The state government illegally provided 75,000 acres of common land, some of which was already forested, for the development of eucalyptus plantations to provide wood pulp for the mill. Several families were evicted from the land in the process of developing the plantation. When the villagers found out that it was illegal to transfer these common lands, protests developed which led to the halting of the development in some areas. Elsewhere, clashes with the authorities occurred and many were injured. The project is still being implemented, however.

A National Audit Office report was critical of the project:

"In the projects they examined the National Audit Office noted that the ultimate beneficiaries were often not confined to the poorest groups. This was particularly true in Mysore which from the outset was primarily concerned with commercial production, albeit with a social forestry content. However, the local inhabitants, mostly, but not all, poor were expected to benefit from additional employment, fuel and fodder. The project was technically successful but the Administration have declined to fund a second phase because it did not meet their now more closely defined poverty alleviation criterion."[270]

Another problem with rural aid projects is that they tend to promote intensive agricultural methods which became fashionable with the advent of the Green Revolution. The Brundtland Report still supports intensive methods:

"If farmers in these countries are forced to continue with extensive agriculture, which is inherently unstable and leads to constant movement, then farming will tend to spread through remaining wildlife environments. But if they are helped and encouraged to practice more intensive agriculture, they could make productive use of relatively limited areas, with less impact on wildlands. They will need help: training, marketing support, and fertilisers, pesticides, and tools they can afford."[271]

One particular ODA project which was aimed at promoting such intensive methods has been studied by Percy and Hall. The Indo-British Fertiliser Education Project, launched in 1982 as a large ODA "flagship" project, supposedly strongly "poverty-focussed", it aims to promote Green Revolution high-tech farming methods, including high-yielding seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. In some ways this strategy of increasing yields has been seen as a diversion from redistributive measures, the hope being that greater production would alleviate hunger through some trickle-down mechanism. In practice, the results of the Green Revolution have been appropriated by better-off farmers. The landless have not benefited because yields cannot be increased if there is no land in the first place. This reality has led to attempts, as in this project, to focus on small farmers. Commercial considerations do enter into this project, however, since the state-owned Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation which conceived and administers this project stands to increase its sales. Percy and Hall found that, whilst some small farmers with good, irrigated land, which is thus not dependent on the yearly monsoon, benefited from the project, less fortunate small farmers were forced to abandon the intensive method. Farmers with no irrigation and poor quality land were dependent on the monsoon for water and could only harvest their crop once a year when prices were low. They were not creditworthy enough to get a loan from the bank, unlike farmers in the former case. Thus the very poorest farmers had little capital and room for manoeuvre for making the expenditures on the inputs necessary for intensive methods. Landless people, as we have seen, are not assisted by this project.

The effects of this intensive method of agriculture have been decreasing soil fertility after the initial applications of chemical fertiliser, the destruction of local seed varieties, an increasingly narrow genetic base which in turn has led to increasing vulnerability to pests. The pesticides themselves have created an increasing immunity to their effects in the pests themselves. In 1988, according to Percy and Hall, high yielding varieties of rice were killed off in Bihar because of a scorching disease caused, it is thought, by the Brown Plnat Hopper pest. The necessary investment in fertiliser plant and other infrastructure to underpin these methods is colossal and creates few jobs, and ties up capital that could be spent on more urgent genuinely poverty-focussed projects. Such plant is increasingly being designed and supplied by foreign capital, which increases India's dependency on the import of expensive components and spare parts.[272]

The National Audit Office report once again was critical of this project, as well as the Karnataka and Mysore projects:

"The National Audit Office found that the Administration (ODA) had little opportunity to influence the basic concept of any of the projects. but their advisers were able to introduce qualitative improvements to some components for example, in Karnataka they had strengthened the Social Forestry element. The National Audit Office noted that the earlier projects paid limited attention at this stage to the establishment of monitoring and evaluation requirements. There was little attention to social (Mysore, Karnataka) and environmental (Indo-British Fertiliser I) issues, with limited or no involvement of relevant advisers and no clear policy guidance by which to judge the impact on the poor."[273]

Rather than promote such intensive high-tech methods, it has been argued that emphasis should be placed on improving the many good aspects of traditional agricultural practice: inter-cropping, the planting of legumes to fix nitrogen in the soil, the use of organic fertilisers, the improvement of local plant varieties.[274]

A study of ODA projects conducted by Hayter has revealed that the ODA has actually been engaged, on a small scale, in something along these lines in Bolivia. The collapse of the tin mining industry, and IMF imposed austerity in the public sector in the mid-eighties, led to a substantial migration from the altiplano region to the Amazonian forest areas around Santa Cruz. Coca production in frontier jungle areas by former tin miners has increased. The conditions in which they live are generally appalling, however, and the drugs mafia are dominant in a generally lawless area of Bolivia. The ODA-funded British Tropical Agricultural Mission (BTAM) has been present in this region since 1976, and a second phase began in 1985. Whilst it was originally involved with the development of cash-crop production, it has more recently been involved in a more poverty-focussed approach. It has built and equipped a research centre, CIAT. An important function of this centre is to enable colonising farmers to farm their newly-cleared jungle plots in such a way as to avoid unsustainable farming practices which often lead them to abandon their plots after a few years, forcing them to move on to a new jungle site. The growth of weeds after the jungle has been burnt down makes the land unplantable and has been a major problem in the colonising frontier region. As an alternative to one solution to this problem, that of mechanisation using tractors which leads to soil destruction, loss of fertility, compacting of the earth and hillside erosion, BTAM researchers came up with a more sensitive approach. It involved intercropping staple annual crops with labour-saving perennial cash crops to generate income. Small livestock, such as chickens and pigs which could be fed on household waste, and legumes to fertilise and regenerate the soil organically, avoided loss of soil quality. The project was aimed at the new influx of migrant farmers from the altiplano. This approach avoided dependency on external inputs, created a diversified system of production and minimised damage to the environment. The researchers were looking also at the possibilities of growing new trees to further retard the growth of weeds and were also trying to create a type of pasture that could enable animals to be grazed without the elimination of trees, thus creating an environment similar to the virgin forest.[275]

As Hayter concludes, whether such a system can flourish in the context of continuing large scale migration, in the middle of a cocaine mafia-dominated region and where land is being rapidly concentrated remains to be seen. The approach does seem to be thousand times more poverty-focussed than the above Indian projects.

Another example, an ODA aid project which attempted to adopt an alternative technological approach, was the Indian Rainfed Farming Project begun in 1989. This was an agricultural research and extension project which used a "process" approach rather than the traditional "blueprint" approach (the distinction between these two approaches has already been described in this chapter). Great emphasis was placed on the need to encourage farmer participation, and a sensitive approach to the local technological requirements of individual farmers was advocated.

In contrast to many of the earlier Integrated Rural Development Projects (IRDPs) in which technology was transferred in a standard form which did not always take account of local agro-ecological conditions, the Rainfed Farming Project attempted to create a practice which recognises the need to take account of local conditions and allow the farmer to select from a menu of technological options. Rather than rely upon heavy subsidies, as the IRDPs did to effect the transfer of technology, attention was also paid to the economic constraints on poor farmers' ability to buy in expensive inputs mentioned in relation to the Indo-British Fertiliser Education Project. It is anticipated that this will avoid the collapse of projects as a result of the inability of the poor farmer to sustain the cost of inputs after the subsidies are withdrawn at the end of the project. This inbuilt minimal and flexible use of technological inputs was thus intended to allow the project to be sustainable and more easily replicable in a way in which the IRDPs were not (see Chapter on Labour Aid Policy).

Whereas the Indo-British Fertiliser Education Project promoted high-tech methods on irrigated land, the Rainfed Farming Project relates to non-irrigated, rainfed land and restricts inputs to low-cost, largely natural, methods. Sixty per cent of Indians live on land which is rainfed. Farmers are generally poorer than on irrigated land. Little research has gone into this sector of agricultural land. This project set out to remedy this lack of attention. The technological options employed included soil and water conservation using low-cost vegetative bunding (hedges) and cropping and inter-cropping practices which reduce soil erosion and moisture loss. One of its most important technological options, however, is the provision of improved seeds to farmers in such a way as to avoid the narrowing of the genetic base which has tended to happen with traditional methods of plant breeding research and distribution. New types of crop seeds have traditionally been developed in research institutions without reference to farmers. A few of the most high-yield seeds have been distributed, leading to narrowing of the genetic base. Some of these seeds, as we have already noted, have been highly susceptible to pests and diseases. These seeds have sometimes been rejected as being unsuitable to local conditions on the farms or for other practical reasons. The varieties rejected by the plant breeding institutions, on the other hand, have sometimes been taken up unofficially by farmers who found them to be better in practice on their farms. The new varieties have only been of relevance to irrigated farms, they have not been used generally in rainfed areas. The alternative approach is to find, through farmer participation methods, which traditional varieties are still in use in rainfed farming, and to match these as far as possible to improved varieties having the same characteristics. In this way the number of seed varieties is maintained instead of reduced.[276]

Other technological options included second cropping, intercropping to increase production, inter-row cultivation and smother crops to reduce weeds (instead of using environmentally hazardous pesticides) and the use of "barrier" cereal crops to prevent the spread of diseases. The use of trees is advocated as a means of improving soil fertility and creating favourable yield interaction with crops.

Fertilisers were advocated "sparingly". Some doubt must remain about this since the project is administered by the state-owned Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation. As has already been noted above in relation to this corporation's involvement with the Indo-British Fertiliser Education Project, this firm is in business to sell fertiliser, and it does seem unlikely that it will be interested in advocating the use of fertilisers "sparingly" on any consistent basis. There was an obvious conflict of interest here which the project proposal did not appear to recognise. The proposal document did, however, recognise some other problems.

"Indian villagers have become familiar with an approach to rural development based on subsidies and soft loans... it is possible that there will be some adverse reaction to a new project which takes a different approach, making only very limited resources available.... There is likely to be pressure on project management to make available inputs (pesticides, for example) in ways that are unsustainable and uneconomic in the absence of support by the project... Much of the official agricultural establishment believes the answer is the provision of subsidies and grants to enable farmers to adapt technology packages of improved varieties, irrigation and agro- chemicals. This belief is in part based on political pressure to offer immediate benefits to rural voters which the politicians regard as an important part of the political patronage at their disposal... monetary support will enhance the chances of success during the projects lifetime... RFP therefore runs the considerable risk of HFC management being tempted to organise external funding support from state-wide anti-poverty programmes so as to achieve rapid improvements in production. The saving grace is perhaps that HFC staff are not birds of passage, have limited promotion prospects, and are accordingly, interested in job satisfaction rather than progression up the greasy pole.[277]

The Project Proposal did therefore recognise pressure from a variety of sources, even if it was perhaps a little unrealistic about the conflict of interest in relation to the Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation and its staff. It did, however, recognise a further potential problem with this corporation as a result of its staff being in the form of a "highly hierarchical structure with a semi-military approach to assignment of responsibilities". This was thought to be in conflict with the need to involve farmers as active participants and partners.

The project went on to suggest that it would be possible for the Indian government to adopt its approach with its relatively high staff costs and minimal subsidy without any great increase in the budget already used to pay out large unsustainable subsidies under the existing system (para 7.5). Despite the problems mentioned above the project does appear to represent a step forward relative to the Indo-British Fertiliser Education Project in the sense that it addresses itself to the needs of rainfed farmers and seeks to use natural instead of expensive technological inputs.

It does seem unlikely that projects such as the British Tropical Agricultural Mission project and the Rainfed Farming Project would ever form other than a tiny part of the British aid budget simply because they are mainly financed in the form of local costs, and there is little scope for tying them to British exports.

By way of contrast, the Rihand power station project in northern India and the associated Amlhori open-cast coal mine project which was to supply the power station, show some of the environmental and other dangers that can accompany this type of aid project:

"The power station will leave 10,000 tonnes of ash every day. Mixed with water to form slurry, it contains toxic trace elements and potentially carcinogenic compounds. Satyajit Singh, a member of a New Delhi environmental group, Kalpavrikish, said the slurry was already seeping into the reservoir where villagers drew their water. Thermal and industrial pollution had also killed fish on which local livelihoods depended."[278]

The ODA had apparently conducted a study into pollution but this was, according to Percy and Hall, more concerned with the effect of thermal pollution on the operating efficiency of the power station rather than on local people's welfare. There were also problems of air pollution and acid rain. The ODA's reaction was that with competitive tendering and the quest for economic growth, "environmental considerations were low down the agenda".[279]

The Amlohri open cast coal mine, which had received 15m Aid and Trade Provision support, had even worse problems as the Audit Office Report on it specified:

"Administration advisers had not visited the site; social development and environmental advisers were not consulted;... the extent of the appraisal was comparable to those for Aid and Trade projects and fell short of the depth normally accorded to country programme projects... Rigorous requirements were made on reafforestation and land reclamation but these were flouted. There were, for example, unauthorised workings of coal deposits by the project authority's staff, which were reported to have led to criminal proceeding by the State Forestry Department. There was also conflicting evidence about the extent of land resettlement and the size of the population affected. There has also been unrest between villagers and mine staff. The environmental management plan, prepared in 1984 to meet Government of India regulations for new mines, was considered inadequate by the Administration's environmental consultants. Their 1987 report identified severe pollution hazards from dust and gaseous emissions, and a lack of data or regular monitoring of air quality, groundwater contamination, minewater discharge and noise levels. The original environmental plan is in force but British High Commission monitoring visits in 1987 and 1988 emphasised continuing environmental problems: considerable devastation of the landscape; spontaneous surface fires; lack of a watering system for the mine and the associated dust problem. It was not clear, however, as to the size of the population affected."[280]

In conclusion, the large amounts of money that are tied up in the latter project in terms of orders for British exporters would often appear to mean that such projects acquire a momentum of their own which environmental advisers have little power to regulate. The projects we have reviewed provide some sobering examples of how wide is the gap between the rhetoric of environmentalism which the Overseas Development Administration has espoused and the often appalling practice which has all too often prevailed, usually because the power of commercial interests has been very strong. As one Indian observer put it in relation to the Rihand Power Station Project:

"An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was never done for Rihand. Once construction has started what's the point of an EIA? The aid comes and steam-rollers through you can't even suggest a different site. There's tremendous pressure with so much money involved."[281]

The growth debate has been falsely polarised for and against. The essential point is surely that it is a question of the determinants and type of growth that is important. The skewed values of the consumer society, the existence of excesses of extravagant personal consumption on the part of the world's wealthy elites alongside the poverty of the overwhelming majority, the wasteful consumption of resources by unrestrained market economies: all point to the need to aspire to a more rational use of resources based on growth dictated solely by socially useful production and the elimination of regressive income distribution.

[218]World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). Our Common Future (The Brundtland Report). OUP, 1987.

[219]Ibid, pp89-91.

[220]Department of the Environment. Our Common Future: A Perspective by the UK on the Report of the WCED. London, 1988, p7.

[221]Pearce, D, Markandya, A, Barbier, E B. Blueprint For A Green Economy (The Pearce Report). London, 1989.

[222]Rees, W E. "The Ecology of Sustainable Development". The Ecologist, Vol 20, No 1, January/February 1990, pp18-23.


[224]Lappe, F M and Schurman, R. Taking Population Seriously. London, 1988, p11.

[225]WCED. Op cit, p153.

[226]Ibid, p95.

[227]Ibid, p106.

[228]Lappe and Schurman. Op cit, p31.

[229]Shiva, V. "Forestry Myths and the World Bank". The Ecologist, Vol 17, No 4/5, 1978, pp142-149.

[230]World Resources Institute. Tropical Forests: a Call to Action, Report of the International Task Force Convened by the World Resources Institute, and the United Nations Development Programme. (quoted in Shiva. Op cit, p143).

[231]Plumwood and Routly. World Rainforest Destruction. No 7 (quoted in Lappe, F M and Collins, J. World Hunger: Twelve Myths. London, 1986, pp34 and 144).

[232]World Resources Institute. Op cit (quoted in Hayter, T. Exploited Earth. London, 1989, p46).

[233]ODA. The Environment and the British Aid Programme. 1980, p8.

[234]Ibid, p8.

[235]Ibid, p15.

[236]Hayter. Exploited Earth, op cit, p17.

[237]The Spur (paper of the World Development Movement), November 1989, p5.

[238]British Overseas Development. Forestry Supplement. 1988, piv.

[239]Letter to International Institute for Environment and Development (quoted in Percy, S and Hall, M. British Aid to India: What Price? London, 1989, p22).

[240]Percy and Hall. Op cit, p20.

[241]National Audit Office. Bilateral Aid To India. Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. 1990, p22.

[242]Mosse, C D F and Kabbur, A N. Report on Monitoring Mission for ODA/ World Bank Karnataka Social Forestry Project. Oxfam/ FEVORD-K. March 1989, pp3 and 10; and Arnold, J E M et al. ODA Evaluation of the Social Forestry Project Karnataka, India. July 1989, piv and p13, which estimates that 20 per cent of the beneficiaries were larger farmers and that this figure was rising. Unpublished ODA internal documents.

[243]McGrath, P. ODA Evaluation Department. Karnataka Social Foresty Project, Poverty impact of the Project, Women in the Project. March 1988. p29. Unpublished ODA internal document.

[244]Interview with Gillian Shepherd (member of ODA Evaluation Team for Karnataka Social Forestry Project). 29 May 1991.

[245]Mosse and Kabbur. Op cit, pp3 and 10.

[246]Arnold et al. Op cit, p43. Also Shepherd, G. "Social Forestry and the Poor in Karnataka: Prospects and Problems". Appropriate Technology, Vol 15, No 1, June 1988, p17-18.

[247]Mosse and Kabbur. Exploited Earth. Op cit, p10; Hayter. Op cit, p141.

[248]Hayter. Op cit, p141; Mosse and Kabbur. Op cit, p10.

[249]Shepherd. Op cit, p17; Arnold et al. Op cit, p42, which claims that only 1 per cent of former food-crop land has been displaced by eucalyptus in Tumkur district.

[250]Hayter. Exploited Earth. Op cit, p142.

[251]Mosse and Kabbur. Op cit, p10.

[252]Arnold et al. Op cit, p43.

[253]Shepherd. Op cit, p19.

[254]Mosse and Kabbur. Op cit, p10.

[255]Farrington, J. "Farmer Participatory Research". Experimental Agriculture, Vol 24, Part 3, 1988, pp269-279. Chambers, R and Ghildyall, B. "Agricultural Research for Resource-Poor Farmers: The Farmer First and Last Model. Agricultural Administration, Vol 20, pp1-30. Mellor, J W. The New Global Context for Agricultural Research: Implications for Policy. International Food Policy Research Institute Report. 1986, pp7-14. Sen. Poverty and Famine: An Essay in Entitlement and Deprivation. Oxford, 1981.

[256]Arnold et al. Op cit, piv.

[257]Interview with Gillian Shepherd. 29 May 1991.

[258]Interview with Gillian Shepherd. 29 May 1991.

[259]Interview with Andrew Bennett, Chief Natural Resources Adviser, ODA. 6 December 1990.

[260]Interview with Mary Hubley, ODA consultant. 4 July 1991.

[261]Interview with Mary Hubley, ODA consultant. 4 July 1991.

[262]Interview with Gillian Shepherd. 29 May 1991.

[263]Percy, S. British Aid to India Turning Green? (op cit), pp8-14.

[264]Interview with Steve Percy, freelance researcher who has visited ODA forestry projects in India. 6 April 1991.

[265]Interview with Steve Percy. 6 April 1991.

[266]Western Ghats Project Document, p4 (cited in Percy, S. Op cit, p20).

[267]Interview with Andrew Bennett, Chief Natural Resources Adviser, ODA. 4 July 1991.

[268]Interview with Andrew Bennett. 4 July 1991.

[269]Interview with Steve Percy. 6 April 1991.

[270]National Audit Office. Op cit, p21-22.

[271]WCED. Op cit, p153.

[272]Percy and Hall. Op cit, pp11-14.

[273]National Audit Office. Op cit, p20.

[274]Percy and Hall. Op cit, p14.

[275]Hayter. Exploited Earth. Op cit, pp153-162.

[276]ODA. Rainfed Farming Project Proposal document, paragraph 5.9. Unpublished internal ODA document. A good account of farmer participation methods is provided by John Farrington "Improved Livelihoods, Genetic Diversity and Farmer Participation: A Strategy for Rice Breeding in Rainfed Areas of India". Experimental Agriculture, Vol. 24, Part 3, 1988, pp311-320.

[277]ODA. Rainfed Farming Project Document. (op cit), paras 8.7, 13.2 and 18.3.

[278]Percy and Hal. Op cit, p7.

[279]Ibid, p8.

[280]National Audit Office. Op cit, pp11-16.

[281]Percy and Hall. Op cit, p8.